Online petition in support of KHC drawing plenty of interest

Kicking Horse Culture's petition to the CSRD to continue its funding had 280 signees as of Saturday.

At its Mar. 4 council meeting, Town Council ruled to renew its three-year $60,000 agreement with Kicking Horse Culture provided the Columbia Shuswap Regional District chipped in $60,000 too, as had been the case under the previous agreement.

No decision has been made from the CSRD as of yet, but KHC is making sure their voice is heard through an online petition that has had a steady stream of signees since it began circulating last week. On Saturday, two days after the petition went out, it had already been signed 280 times. Signed petitions are forwarded directly to Area A Director Garry Habbart and Mayor Christina Benty.

“(Continued funding) will really depend on the people of the community to get their voice heard and to let the elected officials know what it means to them,” said Monica Parkinson, chair of the KHC Board of Directors.

Only Coun. Keith Hern voted against the resolution. Coun. Hern recognized the value that KHC brings to the community, but preferred to explore other funding models while also questioning whether the organization was close to becoming self-sufficient, especially if they raised their membership fees and ticket prices.

Parkinson doesn’t believe that is realistic given KHC’s mandate.

“We are in a contract with local government to give cultural services to the town and Area A. That means we are supposed to be giving cultural services to every citizen in those communities. If we were to go and raise membership and ticket prices, that would become out of reach for a lot of people in our community,” she said.

Equal financial support from CSRD Area A is considered fair by many because of the number of members KHC has from that region.

“It’s about 50/50 actually,” Parkinson said referring to KHC’s membership. “If you look at our board members, every single board member of ours right now is either living or has property in Area A.”

For his part, Habbart has said the decision regarding funding is still up in the air, and he plans to explore a variety of options.

“There’s nothing stopping it from going ahead and there seems to be a fair amount of interest in continuing it, but I would like to take a period of time and my people should be able to tell me what they want,” said Habbart. “I sit on a chair where I hear both sides, I’d be not telling the truth if I didn’t say there were some people who think that maybe we could use money in a different place.”

“I have a little compassion for the taxpayer that’s down to its last $20, what do you want to spend it on, entertainment or would you rather spend it on food. And if a person has an extra $20 they can spend it on what they want.”

Habbart said he found out about the Town of Golden decision from reading the newspaper and had yet to have a conversation with Mayor Christina Benty as of Saturday. That conversation is scheduled to take place in early April, with goals of reaching a decision this spring.

Habbart agreed that the petition would be difficult for him to ignore.

“If people are willing to go to the trouble of doing that sort of thing, then why would a politician ignore it?” he said.

According to Parkinson, if KHC were to lose its financial support from local government, it would have severe, negative consequences.

“We would maybe still be able to provide a few concerts and things like that but through volunteers and maybe a small part-time staff,” she said. “We would probably set ourselves back to six years ago when KHC was first starting out.”